Two announcements from Brocade Communications Systems last week could augur a power shift in the support and delivery of virtualized infrastructure. The first announcement was that Pulse Secure, a San Jose-based developer of secure access and mobile security tools, agreed to acquire assets of Brocade’s Virtual Application Delivery Controller (VADC) business. This product was developed at Juniper and spun off into its own company in 2014. Brocade acquired the VADC product line as part of its 2015 acquisition of Riverbed Technology's SteepApp technology.
The second announcement was that AT&T agreed to purchase the Vyatta network operating system and virtual firewall business unit of Brocade, which includes the vRouter product line. Vyatta has been around for more than a decade selling virtualized firewalls and routers, and AT&T has some solid reasons behind this acquisition. First, as the cloud and SaaS apps have increased, Vyatta has become a leader in this space. Also, the deal helps AT&T make good on its promise to move to a completely virtualized network stack.
AT&T stated in the Vyatta press release:
“We expect to virtualize and software-control 75% of our network by 2020. Our plan is to hit 55% by the end of 2017.”
If that comes to pass, it could make AT&T's transformation and virtual networking products more coherent and attractive to enterprise IT managers. Next, network function virtualization could become such a commodity in a few years that AT&T could become the lowest-cost provider, given the tremendous size, capacity, and reach of its global network. And finally, there is always the chance that Cisco could wake up from its deep sleep in the virtualized networking arena and become a major force.
Financial terms of the two deals were not disclosed, but some of the engineers and product managers attached to both product lines will be moving with the transactions. The two product lines are somewhat complementary, and it remains to be seen if having them housed in two separate companies will be better than being ignored inside of Brocade.
Now the downside. The AT&T-Brocade deal is reminiscent of the Verizon-Yahoo deal: Both are being done almost too late, by telcos that wanted some internet luster but ended up with getting a bunch of technologies they may be ill-equipped to promote, sell, and enhance. AT&T used to be associated with innovation (remember Bell Labs?) but could provide so many management layers as to prevent real innovation going forward.
AT&T will face some stiff competition to do more with the Vyatta brand for enterprise users. First, its presence in the data center, beyond its own dmarc, is almost nil, and that won’t change overnight. Second, Brocade has sold its Vyatta vRouter software via the AWS Marketplace since December 2015, and it has also been available from Rackspace; those are probably the two more likely places where enterprises will purchase this product in the near-term.
AT&T will also face some competition from the hypervisor vendors, such as VMware and Microsoft (Hyper-V), both of whom have integrated virtual firewall offerings. And then there are the hyperconverged vendors that will bundle a virtual firewall into their own products and have huge data center contracts and well-developed channels.
Finally, the virtual networking space is getting crowded, with vendors such as Catbird, Hytrust, Beyond Trust, and others (including the traditional endpoint AV vendors such as Kaspersky and Bitdefender) selling similar products.
Opinions expressed above do not necessarily reflect those of Data Center Knowledge and Informa.